STRATEGY

Enough Strategic Thinking. Just Do What Works.

Most problems aren't solved by silver bullets, brilliant strategy, or high technology. They're solved by simple common sense.
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Every homeowner has nagging problems to deal with. Leaks, critters, weeds, pool algae--it's a long, long list. The bigger the home, the more property you own, the more stuff you've got, the more problems you've got to deal with.

I've lived on a relatively large property for a long, long time. Every year, it's the same old problems. And the more years pass, the more I understand that most problems aren't solved by silver bullets, brilliant strategy, high technology, or even brute force. Usually, it just takes a little finesse, a little craftiness, a little common sense. That and a lot of patience and persistence.

Take gophers for example. They're a huge problem around here, in the mountains surrounding Silicon Valley. I've tried pretty much every silver bullet solution and they all came up short. The only thing that works is learning to think like a gopher, finding their tunnels, and setting really low-tech traps in their holes--the kinds of traps that have existed for decades. And you've got to stick with it. That means setting those traps every week during the season, year in, year out.

The funny thing is, the working world is pretty much the same. Whether you manage a business, an organization, or your own career, you can spend all your time searching for quick fixes and miracle solutions. But at the end of the day, most problems aren't that different from the gophers. You're better off just doing what works.

So, why don't people do that? Why don't they just do what works? Because that requires a little thought and getting your hands dirty. And it's usually pretty boring and repetitive. Like annual planning, budgeting, calling on customers, keeping your marketing fresh, using simple metrics to determine what works and what doesn't, that sort of thing.

None of that's fun. In fact, it's all a royal pain in the butt. But it works. It's always worked. And it still works.

Sure, it's a lot more fun to just get on your computer and search for new stuff. It's a lot easier to just plunk down a credit card, make a purchase, and hope it works. It's certainly a lot more instantly gratifying to try something new and different or even to read something that's supposed to inspire you or help you to be more productive.

It's easy to be fooled into feeling good about clicking on a link or a button.

But you know what? Just like managing this property for the past 20 years, I ran businesses, organizations, and my own career for a long, long time. Now I advise others. And one thing I can tell you with absolute certainty is this: When it comes to managing a business or making it in this world, the more things change, the more they stay the same.

So quit wasting all your time searching for quick fixes, silver bullets, and cool new things to try and buy. Just do what works. Maybe use a little finesse, a little craftiness, a little common sense. And be patient and persistent about it.

And you know what? You'll be more successful and you'll have a lot more time to have fun than you ever imagined. No kidding.

Last updated: May 14, 2013

STEVE TOBAK | Columnist

Steve Tobak is a management consultant, an executive coach, and a former senior executive of the technology industry. He's managing partner of Invisor Consulting, a Silicon Valley-based strategy consulting firm. Contact Tobak; follow him on Facebook, Twitter, or LinkedIn.

The opinions expressed here by Inc.com columnists are their own, not those of Inc.com.



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